behind the slag…
November 18, 2010
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We drive on a large concrete freeway as it passes smokey factories, trashed out fields, and run-down bars. We take an exit to another road…one that still has homes on it, even ones that are not yet boarded up. We then turn down a dusty gravel road behind a rusted barbed-wire fence. Our truck bumps along a sandy road, and dust drifts way from us in the cold November wind.
We open our doors and step out. The air is putrid with the smells of sulphur and the rot of a nearby dump. Sirens and large trucks scream and roar on the nearby Interstates. We walk around in a tired droop in a field of last season’s prairie flowers, which now resemble aged bronze statues against a grey and colorless landscape.
John, our leader, walks us in circles for a while until we arrive at a sandy and wet area. We are looking to see how the cedars and pines were doing that John had planted seven years ago. “These are Boreal remnants,” says John. Things like the Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) are “really rare.”
Suddenly, John stops us dead in our tracks. A look of unpleasant shock comes across his face.
Nearly all of the pines and cedars he had planted has their cages torn down and their branches eaten…by deer. Deer populations in the region had become so high, that they were making their way into this nature reserve, and they tore down the caging around the plants and devoured the restoration effort of seven years.
We walk swiftly back to the truck. John grumbles something about how every time he comes to this place, something gets ruined. I look around the perimeters of this fenced-in natural area, and I see the miles of old factories, rusty cars, and the colorless concrete…and I suddenly became more thankful for the prairies and dunes that were just under my feet.
Conservation is not something one should ever quite. Ever.